Over the past two years, Microsoft has contracted for 285 MW of renewable powerfrom two off-site wind energy projects. These two wind farms — capable of generating enough electricity to power 125,000 U.S. homes — could not have been built without the long-term off-take agreement provided by Microsoft, demonstrating the large-scale impact that companies can have on renewable energy deployment.
The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation’s oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change. In a conference call with reporters, Janet McCabe, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, said the rules were designed to ensure that oil and gas companies reduced waste and sold more gas that would otherwise be lost, while protecting the climate and the health of the public.
U.S. EPA today proposed methane rules for new and modified oil and natural gas operations, setting in motion a regulatory apparatus that eventually could cover leakage from the entire sector. Addressing four of the five segments that EPA considered regulating, the draft rule would require the oil and gas industry to find and repair leaks, capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells, limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps on well pads, and limit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations.
California’s public pension funds, CalPERS and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, have lost more than $5 billion from their investments in fossil fuels from June 2014 to June 2015. Many fossil fuel stocks have continued to plunge as oil and coal prices drop, according to an analysis from environmental group 350.org. The report comes as some push forward legislation that would make the funds divest from coal companies.
North Dakota’s oil production grew in June, despite a drop in prices, a combination that could spell trouble for state revenue if it continues. If the price stays low, it could crimp the state’s tax revenue, state Mineral Resources Department Director Lynn Helms said on a conference call with reporters. “We think we’re in a period of sustained low prices for at least two years,” Helms said. “It’s going to be a long, difficult period.”
A federal court bid last week by 15 states to block U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan offered few new arguments but illuminated a key legal strategy: retaining the same three Republican-appointed judges who considered an earlier, premature challenge to the regulation. Led by West Virginia, the states asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to take the unusual step of granting an emergency stay of the greenhouse gas standards for power plants. That would put the rules on hold pending the resolution of litigation.
The improvement was no accident. As wind became valued as an important contributor to the Texas generation portfolio, it became apparent that to fully benefit from wind they would need to build transmission lines from where the best generation sites were to the population centers where it would be used. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) set about defining Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) and creating an electric transmission plan to assure that the electricity could get from the CREZs to point of use. The transmission lines have now been built and have nearly zeroed out the need to curtail wind generation.
In a move that mirrors President Obama’s recent executive action on climate change, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is pushing forward a cap on carbon emissions under the state’s Clean Air Act after failing to convince the Legislature to approve a market-based program last year. The new proposal would not require legislative action, according to David Postman, a spokesman for the governor.
President Barack Obama’s enemies have long accused him of waging a “war on coal.” But a very different war on oil and gas is coming next. The newest phase of Obama’s environmental agenda has the oil and natural gas industry in its crosshairs, with plans to curb greenhouse gas pollution from rigs and refineries, tighten oversight of drilling on public lands and impose a strict ozone limit that industry lobbyists slam as “the most expensive regulation ever.”
By almost any measure, the U.S. solar market is on fire. Installations of solar panels are expected to soar by a third this year, the price of solar power is now cheap enough to compete neck and neck with gas and coal-fired power in places like California, and the fledgling industry received a vote of confidence last week when U.S. President Barack Obama announced a groundbreaking plan to curb power plant emissions. Even China’s currency devaluation could cut panel costs for U.S. solar installers. Wall Street, however, has been dumping solar shares this year, largely on concern, which investors say is misplaced, that tumbling oil prices will sap demand for alternative energy, even though oil isn’t used to generate power.